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April 24, 2014
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Current Concerns  >  2012  >  No 9, 1 March 2012  >  Maloja, the “pearl of the Upper Engadine” – a visual inspection [printversion]

Maloja, the “pearl of the Upper Engadine” – a visual inspection

bha. The lovely Maloja village in the Engadine has always attracted tourists who sought rest and recuperation. No skiing, no nightlife, and no business hype – the holidaymakers were spared all the drawbacks of St Moritz in Maloja. Two small shops were enough for the daily provisions; some restaurants were offering affordable pizza; some small hotels, older but very comfortable, were offering accommodation. Besides, a few apartments.

All these things, highly estimated by tourists, have quickly changed over the years and very often to the detriment of the holidaymakers who seek recreation in the Engadine.

Not just for vacationers, even for the locals Maloja has greatly changed. Whoever you ask, the people complain: the hairdresser, the people in the restaurant, the staff, i.e. the “losers”.

A venerable hotel, which is a listed building, was taken over some years ago by a couple from Aargau. Additionally, they own a few apartments and a restaurant. The hotel atmosphere changed very soon to a posh hotel, as did the prices. People say the owner is rather snobby. On this hotel owner’s initiative at least five large apartment houses were built in Maloja; the architect is a brother of a Maloja resident from the Bergell. Some time ago, Maloja was subject to a merger and belongs to the commune of Stampa now. The houses with the holiday apartments are predominantly vacant as they do in other vacation areas, too. Blocks in the landscape, huge, however new building continues. The entrepreneur Pitsch from St. Moritz is awarded the building contracts.

The Kulm Hotel was closed some time ago. Now it is said to be renovated and a large spa area will be added. This time the owners are Italian. The Lunghin Hotel wanted to build something new. They obtained no building permit, until it was finally sold to Pitsch from St. Moritz, who now does the building work. The small older hotel also wanted to expand and remodel. It does not get building permission, it is said to be factually expropriated as an expert on the scene noted. Another hotel had to reduce service to bed and breakfast, because the cook and owner had died unexpectedly young. In the small older hotel, the kitchen was closed down too. In the afternoon the restaurant adjoining the posh hotel is also closed. Cross-country skiers who liked to warm up there and take a cup of coffee are now forced to go to the posh hotel. Rumors say that the luxury hotel’s owner does not pay his employees for the closed period.

The municipal council includes a group of people that strongly stick together and hold the reins. People say, this group determines the fate of Maloja. Socialists and Greens hold the majority.

Nobody knows exactly what goes on in the Renesse House. Formerly school classes from abroad were accommodated there when they learned to ski. A cheerful picture.

Sometimes there is light in the Renesse House, sometimes not, holiday apartments?

End of May this year, the “Volg” shop will close down as it is no longer profitable. Why not, we ask ourselves? Because the owner of the house newly demanded such a high rent? This “Volg” shop is privately owned by the owner of the building. Only a small shop will remain in Maloja. How long? The post office is managed from Samedan anyway, and will probably disappear, too.
Whether you perceive the overall development as positive or negative depends of course on the position that you want to take. However, the assessment is not that simple. Whether a local person, an investor or a local investor, whether owner or employee – a lot of facts need to be implied.

Tourists have already complained that the cross-country ski tracks were not as good as in previous years... The men from the track service say, it is extremely difficult or almost impossible to produce good, pressed trails. This is because of the consistency of the snow. Yes, snow is not powder, not wet snow, it is creamy, mealy, grayish, and clumps together quickly, despite the cold temperatures. The snow has been subjected to chemical analysis. They are waiting for the results. Frequent, unusual avalanches are also in connection with the consistency of the snow. The snow does not react as usual, but differently, and slips off very quickly. Therefore, avalanche warning levels have been increased for instance in the Engadine. Ski touring trails, which were previously considered avalanche safe, should not be used nowadays. Because only little snow can be seen on the slopes – everything has been blown away by the gale-force winds – many do not take the warnings about the increased avalanche danger serious.

The geographical location of Maloja is not insignificant. Maloja is a watershed, the Inn has its source at the Lunghinpass, and Italy is not far from here. To the south flows the Orlegna, pours out in the Maira. Maloja lies at the intersection of mule trails from Italy to Switzerland and vice versa. During the Second World War, some Italians fled to the farm Salecina and found shelter and safety from Hitler’s troops.

Maloja, quo vadis? Why are they not having more democratic transparency?     •